Archive for the ‘Cocktails and Other Beverages’ Category

Crowning Maple

Monday, March 20th, 2017

March is Maple Month in Massachusetts and elsewhere. A new book from Abrams by Robb Turner of Dover Plains, New York, tells both a personal and a regional story about everyone’s favorite natural sweetener. The Crown Maple Guide to Maple Syrup provides a number of toothsome recipes as well.

Turner grew up on a farm in Illinois but chose a career in finance in New York City. There he clearly prospered; a decade ago he purchased a “retreat” for his family in Dutchess County, New York. Madava Farms came with more than 400 acres, and Turner soon found himself buying even more surrounding property.

In 2010 he decided to study the potential for producing a high-quality, organic brand of maple syrup from his trees. He consulted with professors, brand marketers, and professionals, and started Crown Maple. I haven’t tasted its syrup, but a 2013 article in The New York Times rhapsodized over it.

“It pours with a languor more like that of honey, and tastes softer and richer than the ‘pure maple syrup’ sold in most supermarkets,” wrote reporter Kate Zernike, who noted that Crown syrup achieves a higher sugar content than most maple syrup.

I never bother with supermarket maple syrup, living as I do in the midst of many sugarhouses. Nevertheless, The Crown Maple Guide has much to offer.

With the aid of Jessica Carbone, Turner writes in a clear and engaging voice. He traces the history of sugaring in this country and goes on to describe the processes by which today’s maple producers tap, refine, and bottle their syrup.

His prose is accompanied by diagrams and by stunning color photographs of his farm and sugaring operation.

Turner’s story is followed by 60-odd maple-related recipes. Most call for maple syrup, but some use maple sugar as well. According to Turner, the recipes come from the fertile mind and kitchen of his wife Lydia.

They cover just about any meal and course. Breakfast is represented by the likes of maple granola, maple sticky buns, and a delicious-sounding sausage. One can have maple-infused sweet potato soup for lunch, and chili or pulled pork or fish for dinner. All the recipes include maple, and all sound very doable.

I do not plan to purchase Turner’s maple syrup anytime soon. I will probably return to his book many times, however, for information and culinary inspiration.

The Crown Maple Guide to Maple Syrup is both beautiful and utilitarian. I hope it will encourage more Americans to make, buy, and cook with maple syrup.

Here’s the first recipe my family tried. We have been into cocktails of late—and my brother and I well recall our grandfather’s fondness for the occasional Old-Fashioned. We made the Crown Maple version of this classic drink recently (with a slight adaptation) in Grandpa’s vintage glasses, which are definitely worn but still beloved.

Robb’s Crown Maple Old-Fashioned

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons dark maple syrup
3 to 4 dashes Angostura bitters
2 sections of an orange
2 sections of a lemon
1/4 cup good Bourbon
ice cubes
sparkling water (we used flat water, which is what my grandfather used!)
2 stemmed Maraschino cherries (we prefer Luxardo)

Instructions:

Pour the maple syrup into a cocktail shaker or a large glass the width of a cocktail shaker. Pour the bitters over the syrup to saturate; then squeeze in the juice from 1 orange section and 1 lemon section.

Add the unsqueezed fruit; then press with a pestle to muddle the fruit with the syrup. Add the bourbon and stir well. Add 1 or 2 ice cubes and top with 1 to 2 inches of water. Stir again. Pour over ice in two glasses, and garnish each glass with a cherry.

Serves 2.

Cranberry Shrub

Monday, November 7th, 2016

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November greetings! Naturally, I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving.

Years ago I made what I called cranberry vinegar—basically, my usual strawberry vinegar with cranberries (I had to heat the vinegar a bit in order to get the cranberries to start blending with it). It was fabulous in salad dressings, and a friend loved mixing it with soda water as a drink.

Unfortunately, it gelled within a day or two; the pectin in the cranberries just couldn’t restrain itself.

So—here’s another version, from the book Colonial Spirits by Steven Grasse (2016, Abrams Books, recipe used with permission).

I have to admit that mine was a LITTLE tastier; both the cranberry and the sugar flavors came across more strongly.

But this one won’t gel up on you! It will beautify your Thanksgiving table and give your guests a refreshing beverage. I made it on my final fall appearance on Mass Appeal last week, along with my favorite key-lime pie, adding a little cranberry sauce to make the pie more seasonal.more-of-zee-pieweb

The Shrub

Ingredients:

3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Instructions:

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the berries pop and become tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, and cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the cranberry mixture in a food processor. Don’t over-process the mixture.

Transfer the mixture to a cheesecloth-lined sieve and strain, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

Store the shrub in a airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes about 1 quart.

To make a refreshing beverage, pour 2 ounces of shrub into a tall glass with ice. Top with 1 cup soda water, and stir to combine.

And now the videos:

Key-Lime Pie

Cranberry Shrub

Drink, Eat, and Be Very Merry Indeed

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

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I am one of the lucky food writers who have been invited to what is called the Abrams Dinner Party. Abrams Publishing (long known for art books and more recently for colorful cookbooks) will be sending us books to review throughout the year.

I’m already behind on posting reviews (I’m behind on EVERYTHING during this nutty season of the year) so I’m giving you three at once.

Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History by Steven Grasse is charming—so much so that although I THOUGHT I was going to set it aside as a prize for my upcoming Hawley Gentlemen’s Pie & Tart Extravaganza, I have decided that it needs to stay in my house so I can use it.

(In addition to enjoying the text I loved the old-fashioned typeface and the whimsical illustrations by the Reverend Michael Alan.)

Grasse is a distiller himself and the creator of such successful historically oriented brands as Narragansett Beer and Hendrick’s Gin. In his book he returns to colonial days, reminding the reader that since the water was unsafe to drink early white Americans turned to ale and other spirits to quench their thirst.

He provides recipes and history for a variety of concoctions, including a variety of beers and wines (cock ale or quince wine, anyone?), ciders, and cocktails. I can now make beverages I had only previously encountered in historical novels, including syllabub, ratafia, and milk punch. (Okay, I may skip the milk punch.)

Look for me to concoct such drinks as cranberry shrub and peach cobbler (yes, it’s a cocktail as well as a dessert) on TV in the months to come.

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In The 24-Hour Wine Expert Jancis Robinson offers a primer for people like me, who either don’t drink wine or don’t know much about it. She helps with selecting wines (telling the reader how to move from one wine s/he likes to another s/he will PROBABLY like), serving them, and storing them.

I have apparently stored much of the wine in my house a little too long.

She also runs through the products of major wine-producing areas and tells the reader how to find a bargain. All in all, this is a handy little book.

Butter & Scotch shares recipes from a combination bar and bakery in Brooklyn of the same name. The bar’s founders, Allison Kave and Keavy Landreth, share their “baking and boozing philosophy,” which is all about having fun while eating and drinking very well. Some of their recipes even combine butter and scotch with delicious-sounding results. All of their recipes are imaginative.

I wanted to test at least one recipe from this book. I was tempted to try the very rich peanut-butter pie but decided to give my guests the slightly less caloric Mama T’s Tuna Quiche.

Basically a rearranged tuna melt in a pie shell (I didn’t say it was calorie free!), the quiche was very popular with a group from my small hometown at a recent pot luck. I think another time I would grate the cheese instead of cubing it, to make it flow through the pie, but I’ll definitely try it again!

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Mama T’s Tuna Quiche

from Butter & Scotch, used with permission

Ingredients:

1 single pie crust
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
6 ounces Swiss cheese, cubed
1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in water, drained
1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fit the crust into a pie pan. (The original recipe uses an 8-inch springform pan, which would be great, but I don’t have one so I used a 9-inch pie pan.) Refrigerate until ready to fill.

In a large bowl beat together the mayonnaise, milk, eggs, and flour. Add the cheese, tuna, olives, scallions, mustard, and cayenne, and stir well. Pour all of the ingredients into the crust, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center has set. (The original recipe says 20 to 25 minutes, and if one has the springform that may work, but in my pie pan it took longer.)

Allow the quiche to cool for at least 20 minutes, then serve it warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week and warmed in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Serves 6 (more at a pot-luck event!).

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The Day of the Dead

Friday, October 24th, 2014

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My friends Donna and Dian in California introduced me to the Day of the Dead, la Dia de los Muertos, which is fast becoming one of my favorite holidays.

I gather that there are actually TWO days of the dead. On November 1, the spirits of dead children return to earth to join us. On November 2, adults follow.

Dian and Donna have wonderful, elaborate ofrendas, shrines dedicated to the memory of people they have lost. The ofrendas feature flowers, candles, trinkets, foods the people loved, skulls made of sugar, and even chocolate skulls.

I am only just starting to celebrate this holiday so my ofrenda is quite small—but I had fun putting it together. I brought it along to my most recent appearance on the television program Mass Appeal. I made Mexican hot chocolate in honor of the day and of my father (who LOVED chocolate).

The hot chocolate recipe, and the chocolate with which I made it, came from Taza Chocolate. I have tried making the hot chocolate with both vanilla-flavored chocolate (plus a little cinnamon) and the guajillo chile chocolate we used on the TV show. The chile chocolate might be a bit strong for kids, but it has a nice kick. And either frothy chocolate drink is fluffy and creamy.

Next year, I hope to give you a recipe for the traditional bread for the Day of the Dead, which you can see in the photograph of my ofrenda. I’m still working on the right formula!

Meanwhile, Happy Day of the Dead—and of course Happy Halloween. If you watch the video at the bottom of this post, you’ll see us make pumpkin bread for Halloween as well as the hot chocolate.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

1 2.7-ounce package (2 discs) Mexican chocolate
2 cups milk
1 pinch salt

Instructions:

Roughly chop or grate the chocolate. Set it aside.

Heat the milk over medium heat until it ALMOST starts to simmer. Remove the milk from the heat, and toss in the salt.

Slow add the chocolate, stirring until it dissolves.

Return the mixture to the stove and warm it up again over low heat. While it is heating, use a whisk, a frother, or an immersion blender to froth it.

Serves 2.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=El2Pi_U-3rk[/youtube]

Florette’s Rhubarb Tea

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

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This recipe appears in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. (If you don’t have the book, feel free to order it!)

I had forgotten about the tea until last week when I was pondering what to prepare on my next segment on the show Mass Appeal. It was a hit with friends when I made it a few days ago—and it was a hit yesterday when I made it on the show. (See video below.) It is lovely to look at and refreshing to drink.

In case you skip over the recipe and go straight to the video, be aware that I made rhubarb crumble first! And … you should know that I forgot to mention on the air that one should cover the raw rhubarb with water BEFORE cooking it for the tea; otherwise the rhubarb will burn long before it simmers! (One does get a little carried away on live TV, but one is learning.)

The recipe originally came from my neighbor Florette, who is mentioned in the video. I have written here before about Florette. She was glamorous, eccentric, and occasionally maddening. She taught me a lot about rhubarb and a lot about life, and I’m grateful for those lessons.

The Tea

Ingredients:

for the rhubarb juice:

2 pounds rhubarb stalks chopped (about 6 cups)
3 cups water
1 pinch salt

for the sugar syrup:
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar

for assembly:
1 quart strong black tea

Instructions:

In a stainless steel or enamel saucepan, cook the rhubarb in water, partially covered, over moderately low heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Stir gently occasionally to keep from boiling. Cool slightly. Drain the rhubarb in a sieve placed over a bowl and discard the pulp, reserving the liquid. Add the salt.

In another saucepan, combine the ingredients for the sugar syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and brushing the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan until the sugar is dissolved. Cook the syrup for 5 minutes, undisturbed, over moderate heat and let it cool.

To make rhubarb tea, combine 2 parts black tea, 1 part rhubarb juice, and 1 part sugar syrup. (You may change these proportions slightly according to your taste.) Serve in a tall glass over ice. As indicated, 4 cups tea, 2 cups rhubarb juice, and 2 cups sugar syrup make 2 quarts of rhubarb tea.

Store any leftover juice or syrup in the refrigerator. If you need a double amount of sugar syrup, make 2 separate batches.

And now the video:

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn951O2e5yc&list=UUhrpfuBCFEPoURYVpsi4iHw[/youtube]

If you’d like to see the quick asparagus dish I made yesterday before the rhubarb (one always eats one’s vegetables BEFORE dessert), here’s that video as well:

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNC_nZJ-_lk&list=UUhrpfuBCFEPoURYVpsi4iHw[/youtube]